Every year, the Christmas decorations come out in the stores earlier than the year before. TV advertises the “great deals” as soon as Labor Day ends. Families are committed to so many family and school events that details can quickly slip past us. With all the noise around us, who can remember to control holiday spending?
There’s not much worse than that January hangover when you review your bank statements and see what you really spent.
One bonus tip: Try doing a No Spend November Challenge to get your budget in better shape for the holidays.
12 ways to control holiday spending
- Don’t fall for marketing campaigns that make you feel as if you’re getting a great deal when you’re really not. For example buy it today and pay for it tomorrow. If there is a hot item, the supply and the good deals will be unlimited. Nothing has only a finite number, though it may be harder to find. If there is a good deal on an item this week, there also will be one next week and the week after. Nothing is “limited time only” because suppliers want to sell as many as they can.
- Create traditions that are low cost. A trip to NYC to see the Radio City show is fabulous, but you don’t need to do it every year. Kids love baking cookies and wrapping presents for kids who are less fortunate. They love making crafts and you can make outdoor ornaments for the birds…the possibilities are endless!
- Allocate a certain amount of money for each person you plan on buying gifts for and don’t overspend by even a dollar.
- Don’t forget to budget for EVERYTHING for the holiday season. Overlooked items such as holiday cards, postage, shipping, office chip-ins and dinners out can quickly add up and demolish your holiday budget.
- Don’t even think of using a credit card unless you are 100% sure you can comfortably pay it off at the end of the month. If you can’t, you cannot afford it.
- Don’t get caught up in the moment. If your shopping cart is overflowing, step back, regroup and make sure you can really afford everything you plan to purchase. Ask yourself why you put everything in the cart and do you really need it?
- Kids learn by example. Even parents who have failed to reach their financial dreams can still teach their kids important lessons about money during the holiday season. Kids don’t remember a certain toy they got for Christmas, they remember the time spent together. Think of more inexpensive traditions, like a holiday advent calendar with books.
- There’s no shame in telling people that this year will be a lean holiday season when it comes to exchanging gifts. Approach people to set spending limits. “Hey, how about we only spend $20 per kid this year?” Many parents will appreciate this.
- Ask yourself this question. Would rather have the short-term satisfaction of expensive material possessions? Or the long-term results of financial freedom and abundance?
- There are good deals to be had on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But be mentally tough to know when enough is enough. If you put something in your cart to purchase, re-evaluate everything before you check out. Who will you give it to? How many other items do you already have for that person? Did you buy it because you had that intention coming into the store? Or was it because you saw several other shoppers looking at it and assumed it was a good deal?
- When it comes to spending this holiday season, leave your emotions on the shelf. Let reason be your guide. This is particularly true for special needs families. We tend to feel more emotions during this time. Try to utilize healthy ways to express them, other than overspending to try and compensate for losses.
- Limit charitable giving. Helping others is a nice gesture and certainly in the spirit of the holidays. But if you’re not financially comfortable yourself, you can’t give what you don’t have. A little leftover change is one thing, but don’t do more harm than good. Pick one or two causes and donate something small or donate your time. Encourage friends and family to do the same. If everyone did one small thing, the need wouldn’t be as great.
The holidays are a wonderful time. Don’t stress yourself out by overspending or thinking that you “can’t afford” a nice holiday season.
It’s about time, love and family…not “stuff.”
Thanks to Steve Siebold for contributing to this post.